Chances are you’ve had plenty of gym memberships but found them too expensive, their hours too inconvenient, and, perhaps worst of all, too crowded.
These are just a few of the reasons so many people today set up their own at-home gyms. Regardless of your fitness goals, an at-home gym can be every bit as effective as big-name gymnasiums.
Some people believe limited household space equals a poor workout, however, this is where a dumbbell set, along with some muscle-building protein supplements, can be your new best friend.
You can get a total body workout using only a dumbbell set! Also, you can create circuits to make your own calorie-burning cardio workout. Mix these in with some bodyweight exercises and you have your own home gym at any time!
For those who have room for a larger setup, a complete dumbbell weight set, including a rack, can be a worthwhile investment.
It doesn’t matter if you are new to weightlifting, setting up an at-home gym for the first time, or if you are a long-time exercise enthusiast, dumbbells provide an excellent, muscle-building workout that brings many health benefits.
Why Dumbbells Should be in Every Home Gym
Strength training, also known as weightlifting or weight training, is the key to growing muscle mass. Besides eating a healthy diet and, for some, using weight gainers, weightlifting boosts the amount of lean muscle mass in your body. Having more muscle mass will increase your metabolism and also leads to:
- Less body fat
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Lower blood pressure
- Increases HDL cholesterol (the good kind)
- Improves cognitive abilities
- Increases bone density by as much as 3%
- Reduces lower back pain
Don’t forget that for many people, you will need to invest in a weight bench to get the maximum results. This will allow you to lift with good support for your back and to handle the necessary resistance in order to build muscle.
Fixed Dumbbells or Adjustable Dumbbells?
It’s clear that purchasing a dumbbell set is an investment in health that is sure to pay off with regular use. Now you must choose between fixed dumbbells or an adjustable dumbbell set.
Let’s look at both types so you can make the best decision for your situation.
As the name implies fixed dumbbells come in one weight and cannot be interchanged. These come in increments such as 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 30 pounds. These types of weights are sometimes called hex or cap dumbbells because of the shape of the weights on the ends. Hex dumbbells have hexagon-shaped, flat ends, while cap dumbbells have a ‘hat’ or capped ends that are fixed in place.
The Pros of Fixed Dumbbell Sets
- You can replace a single dumbbell if it gets damaged or lost
- Most have a hexagon shape or have caps with one or two flat sides, so they don’t roll away
- Easier to use when moving between different weights
- Rubber dumbbell sets, while not made entirely of rubber but are rubber coated, are very durable and last longer than most adjustable dumbbell sets. They also make less noise and protect floors if dropped.
The Cons of Fixed Dumbbell Sets
- Cheaper by the pound unless you plan to buy a large set of weights, then they can be very expensive when compared to some adjustable weight sets
- To save space, you will probably need to buy a dumbbell rack set to hold and organize the weights, which adds an additional cost.
- When using heavier weights, some shapes, especially block shapes, can impede your dumbbell workout, causing you to hit your thighs, calves, or other body parts
- Grip is very important when working with dumbbells and some fixed weight sets have smooth surfaces that can slip if your hands become sweaty.
- If you drop a dumbbell 45 pounds or higher from an odd angle, they can be more likely to break or warp the handle.
- You have to take control not to slam rubber weights together. Example: Doing an incline dumbbell chest press and bringing them together too forcefully at the top of the motion can cause them to bounce outward risking yourself injury
When it comes to adjustable dumbbell sets, the difference is all in the handle. One mistake you want to avoid at all costs is to buy a cheap set of handles that strip, bend, or break apart easily. Not only is this dangerous, but it can be costly to replace the handles every year or so.
There are two types of handles, the link to spin type and weight fastener type often called the Olympic handle.
First, let’s talk about these very different handles.
Link to Spin Lock Handles
A good set of links to spin lock handles can take as much as 100 pounds of dumbbell weight plates (if you are using 25-pound weight plates). These types of handles have threaded ends you mount the weight to, then spin on a locking fastener so the weight does not move or fall off. These types of handles take an extra minute to screw on the fastener, but they are very safe.
These are the favorites of professionals because weights can be added quickly. Olympic style handles use a fastener called a collar which slides onto the end of the handle quickly and is held down with an “L” shaped handle, similar to an Allen wrench. While changing weights is faster, if the collar is not securely fastened, it can allow the weight to slide off, which can be dangerous.
The Pros of Adjustable Dumbbells
- They take up less space
- If you are buying an entire set, adjustable dumbbells will be cheaper
- If you are doing exercises that require you to change weights between sets, adjustable dumbbells can be easier. It depends if you want to add or remove a weight or have a variety of fixed dumbbells scattered near your bench
The Cons of Adjustable Dumbbells
- Other than one brand, (the Ironmaster), most adjustable weights are not as durable, especially the handles
- When buying handles, they are sold only in pairs, so if only one is damaged, you will need to buy a new pair
- Adjustable dumbbells can cost more, especially if you don’t plan on lifting very heavy weights
Let’s Get Down to the Nitty Gritty
Now that you know more about what type of dumbbell weight set you want to use, we can talk about the top 6 most popular dumbbell sets, 3 adjustable and 3 fixed weight. One of these will be right up your alley:
Top 3 Adjustable Dumbbell Sets
If you have decided that an adjustable dumbbell set is right for you, then you’ve conquered half the battle. We’ve narrowed the choices down to the top 3 models and picking just one from these beauties will be a difficult choice!
Super easy to use, there is no need to unscrew locking mechanisms or worry about weights possibly falling off. You select the amount of weight you wish to use by turning the dial to the appropriate number and the weight is automatically added or removed for you.
- Adjusts from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds in 2.5-pound increments
- Incorporates 15 sets of weights into one compact system
- Weight changes are quick and easy, making exercises faster with less hassle
- No need for multiple dumbbells or weights in the workout area
- Two-year warranty
- More expensive than other adjustable weight sets
- Must buy the holder for the set to work properly
- Sold only in pairs so if one becomes damaged, you must purchase a new set
Bowflex is a very popular brand of workout equipment that’s been around since 1986. They are best known for their resistance workout benches. The company has been so successful that it has acquired many other exercise manufacturers, including Nautilus, Stairmaster, and Schwinn Fitness.
Who Should Buy This
If you are an exercise fanatic who believes that purchasing top-of-the-line products is an investment in good health and fitness, this will meet both your needs and desires.
If saving space is of premium importance to you or if you don’t enjoy messing with complicated locks and guides, the simplicity of the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells is a smart choice.
Good looking and durable, this cast iron adjustable weight set uses star-type lock collars with threaded ends on the handles for a very secure locking mechanism. These are sold as a pair and extra weights can be purchased as desired.
The weights are cast iron with a black paint finish, making them incredibly durable. A knurled grip on the chrome handles allows you to keep a steady hold with a minimal amount of slipping.
The star locking mechanism comes with rubber gaskets to avoid damaging the paint on the weights as well as avoiding those clanking noises when lifting. Even for those with smaller hands, the star gear itself is large enough to use comfortably.
- Chrome handles are sturdy and long lasting
- Star locking feature easy to use for everyone and very secure
- Additional weights can be purchased
- 60-Day no questions asked return policy
- 5-year warranty on weights and other parts
- Weight handles come in two sizes. If you decide to add over 60 pounds, you must buy new handles to accommodate the heavier weights
- You must purchase additional weight plates through the manufacturer or Amazon
- Cast-iron plates can chip easily and damage floors
Established in 2010, the company has already carved itself a hefty niche in the world of sports and fitness. This is an American company, based in California. They offer a wide variety of exercise and yoga equipment, including balance trainers, kettlebells, and products for strength training.
Who Should Buy This
For those who are interested in a basic, yet durable set of adjustable weights and don’t care about the brand name, these would be a perfect choice. The Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbell Set is high quality, practical, and affordably priced.
This is an affordable and versatile adjustable dumbbell set for the beginner or more advanced weightlifter. The standard 1 -inch handles are 100% steel, enabling them to hold up to 100 pounds each! The cast-iron plates are enamel coated, making them less prone to chips and super durable.
The handles have knurled grips, making them safe and secure, even for those with sweaty palms. This setup uses the star locking system, which means easy off and on with a very secure hold on the plates.
One of the big plusses for this setup is the free plastic carrying case. This makes storing or moving weights as easy as carrying a suitcase. Extra weight plates can be purchased in almost every sporting goods store or online.
- Semi-gloss coating on plates makes them durable and chip resistant
- Carrying case makes for easy storage and portability
- No need to buy additional handles unless you need weights over 100 pounds
- Additional weight plates can be purchased in a variety of locations
- Some people say the coating on the weights makes them smell strange
- The knurled handles often have tiny pieces of metal shavings that can get into the skin of new users
- The weights must be disassembled to fit inside the case
About CAP Barbell
One of the oldest names in weight training, CAP is based in Texas and has been incorporated since 1982. The company is best known for its basic, down-to-earth products that boast class, not flash.
Who Should Buy This
If you are a “don’t need fancy stuff, just give me the basics” kind of person, but you still expect quality from your products, CAP is the brand for you. Sturdy, durable, high quality at a very reasonable price means you will have little need to upgrade, replace or repair.
Top 3 Fixed-Weight Dumbbell Sets
If your heart is set on a set of fixed weight dumbbells, we want to show you the top-rated sets we recommend.
This dumbbell set comes with a two-year warranty. Additional weights are available, but they won’t fit on the rack. Additional dumbbells are sold in pairs only.
- Hexagon shape means dumbbells won’t roll away from you
- Neoprene coating provides super durability and superior grip
- Rack holds dumbbells neatly in place
- Full 2-year warranty
- Weights can only be purchased in pairs
- Racks cannot hold additional weights
- Weights in this set do not go higher than 8 pounds
BalanceFrom is a California based company that was established in 2012. They specialize in yoga, exercise equipment, and precision bathroom scales.
Who Should Buy This
For the beginner or for those who aren’t interested in bulking up, this is a nice set that is easily tucked away in a corner. The super-affordable price for 3 dumbbells, along with a liberal 2-year warranty, are the main reasons that this fixed dumbbell set with rack stays on Amazon’s Best Seller list. These are great as a way to add in extra resistance during any aerobic type training, but still keep things manageable.
Chrome plated, knurled handles mean a sure, non-slip grip and rubber coated weights mean durability plus! This dumbbell set is sold in the 5-50-pound range.
The hexagon-shaped weights mean that they will not roll away while working out. The weight number is stamped into the rubber, so it won’t wear off like painted numbers.
- Pay only for the weights you want
- Rubber coated weights are super tough and won’t chip
- Hexagon shape means weights stay with you
- Reasonably priced
- Rack must be purchased separately
- Rubber smell lasts for a few weeks
- Only sold in pairs
- Weights stop at 50 pounds
Who Should Buy These
For those who want a basic set of dumbbells that will last for decades (with proper care) these are a sure winner. The CAP name is known for quality and durability, so you know you are getting a great product for a fair price. These dumbbells come in weights that are more than adequate for most home-gyms.
This hex dumbbell set goes from 5 to an incredible 120 pounds. Sold in sets or individually, depending on the weight, this set allows you to buy what you need and not waste money on weights you might not use.
- Classic shape and design
- Knurled handles for better grip
- Hexagon shape means weights won’t roll away
- You can buy a single weight if one is lost or damaged
- Buy only the weights you want
- Must buy in pairs 25 pounds and under
- Storage rack must be purchased separately
- Weights are very durable, but paint can be chipped off
Who Should Buy These
If you love the classics and want a name you can trust, this hex dumbbell set can’t be beaten. While it might have a few drawbacks, they are outweighed by the quality and price. CAP doesn’t list a warranty time for these, but reviews state the company is extremely responsive to requests for service.
The Bottom Line
The decision as to what type of dumbbells work best is truly personal. Determine your preferences, needs, and, of course, budget before making your decision.
Dumbbells can be one of the best investments in your health that you can make. Taking the time to consider your workout goals, space, and wallet will help prevent you from overspending or being frustrated with the amount of space involved. Dumbbells provide you with an endless combination of exercises and workouts, and this variation is key to providing the stimulus for consistent muscle growth.
If you have any tips on purchasing dumbbells or if you love the set you have, we would love to hear about your experiences.